DNA shows Jefferson had Jewish relatives

WHIPPANY, N.J. — The DNA evidence indicating that America's third president had children with his black slave Sally Hemings also shows that Thomas Jefferson had Jewish relatives through his son's marriage.

Researchers last month announced that they had tracked a Y chromosome that matched direct descendants of both Jefferson and Hemings. The match was confirmed through the descendants of Heming's son Eston.

About six years ago, Stephen Levitt, an amateur geneaologist in Verona, N.J., learned about the marriage between Eston Hemings and Julia Ann Isaacs, the daughter of a Jewish man and a woman of black and white ancestry.

Levitt had been reading through "First American Jewish Families," a book of 600 genealogies of Jewish families from 1654 to 1977, when he noticed that a David Isaacs had "married a kid with black ancestry."

He then spotted the name Ester Hemmings and, aware of the longtime theories linking Jefferson with Sally Hemings, called Monticello, the Jefferson home in Virginia, and asked to speak with an archivist.

He asked her to check the Hemings marriage records and she confirmed that Heming's son, Eston, had married a woman named Julia Ann Isaacs.

Wanting to clarify the difference in spelling, Levitt says he then called Malcolm H. Stern, who had put the genealogies together, who told him that there were typographical errors in the book and Eston Hemings had married the daughter of a Jewish man.

Diane Swann-Wright, a Monticello historian, confirmed that information last week.

In another Jewish connection, Swann-Wright noted that, for many years following the president's death, Monticello belonged to a Jewish family, the Levys.